Some typical pages from the book
Rocky Mountain Wildlife


These are the actual pictures and captions

This book is now out of print

Mule Deer

Mule deer are the most common and widespread large mammal in the Rockies, named for their large mule-like ears. Mule deer are stockier than their eastern relative, the white-tailed deer, standing about three feet tall and averaging 200 pounds, with a brown or gray coat. They live mostly in mountain areas, but sometimes in cities and towns. Male deer (bucks) shed their antlers and grow a new set each year. During the mating season in November, a buck will search for a receptive female (doe) and defend her from other suitors. A threatening display usually repels the smaller buck, otherwise they join antlers and engage in a violent twisting and shoving battle. Fawns are born in June. Their spotted coats and lack of scent helps conceal them from predators. They spend their first few days hidden while their mother feeds nearby, returning periodically to nurse. Mule deer are best spotted at dawn and dusk, since they spend their days resting in the forest.

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn sheep are magnificent animals, famous for their dramatic head-butting battles. They are tan or dark brown with a white rump patch, and are excellent rock climbers. Both sexes have horns. The female (ewe) has short, slightly curved horns, while the male (ram) has the familiar heavy curling horns. Horns are never shed, but continue to grow throughout the ram's life, reaching a full curl after about eight years. Horns are made of keratin, the same hard protein that forms hooves and hair. Bighorns have reinforced skulls and strong necks to withstand the impact of their fights. In the summer, they stay in high mountain areas, rams separate from the ewes. When the snow falls and November mating season approaches, bighorns move down to their traditional ranges and the rams join the ewes. The dominant ram searches continuously for a receptive ewe and tries to discourage other eager rams. Bighorn social status centers on horn size and rams have a complex system of body language to maintain hierarchy. When that fails they resort to their well-known horn-clashing battles.

Mountain Goat

Mountain goats are wooly white animals that live in the highest mountain areas. With their spongy hooves and muscular shoulders, they are champion mountaineers. They are smaller than they appear, only about three feet tall. Both the male (billy) and female (nanny) have thin sharp black horns, and it is difficult to tell them apart. Kids are born in late spring on precipitous cliffs, safe from predators. They can walk in a few days, and spend their first summer frolicking among rocks in their alpine playground. When the winter snows blow, a billy will search for a nanny, approaching her cautiously. Unlike most animals, a nanny will attack an annoying billy until she is ready to mate. Mountain goats stay on their lofty ranges all winter, relying on their shaggy white coats to protect them from winter's icy cold. They forage for food on wind-blown, south-facing slopes, steadfastly awaiting the warmer days of spring. Mountain goats naturally range in northern Montana and Idaho, and have been transplanted into certain areas of other western states. The easiest place to see them is on Mount Evans west of Denver and in Glacier National Park in Montana.


The tiny pika lives on talus rockpiles in high mountain areas. They are mostly brown, with tiny ears and no tail. In the summer months, pikas are easily seen scurrying among the rocks. They busily collect mouthfuls of plants and spread them under the talus to dry. When not foraging, they perch on prominent rocks and watch for predators. If threatened, they emit a loud squeak, alerting other pikas in the area. Pikas are related to rabbits and hares, so they do not hibernate in winter. Instead they live among the talus, under the mantle of snow, eating their cache of dried plants.

Great Horned Owl

Owls are fascinating and mysterious birds of prey. They are admirably equipped for nocturnal hunting of rodents and small mammals. They have extraordinary hearing and extremely sensitive large eyes to locate their prey in the dark. Their eyes are fixed in their sockets, so they shift their gaze by moving their whole head. Owls have very flexible necks, which allow them to turn their heads 180º left or right, plus upside down. Their ear tufts are just feathers-the ear openings are near their eyes on the edge of the facial disk. The wing feathers of owls have serrated edges so they fly silently. The business end of an owl is its formidable talons, long, sharp and powerful. After a successful hunt, owls gulp down their food. Their weak digestive systems cannot handle bones and hair, so these collect into pellets which are regurgitated.

Great horned owls are familiar and common large owls, about 24" tall with a four foot wingspan. They do not migrate, and begin nesting in mid-winter. They choose from existing nests rather than build new ones. The female incubates the eggs while the male feeds her. The chicks hatch in about a month, covered with fuzzy down. The mother owl may stay in the nest, shielding her chicks from inclement weather with her wings. They grow quickly, fed by both parents, and soon venture out of the nest to a nearby branch.

Mountain Bluebird and Western Bluebird

Brightly colored bluebirds are fairly common and popular songbirds of the forests and meadows of the Rocky Mountains. Western bluebirds prefer the lower elevations while mountain bluebirds like the higher areas. The male mountain bluebird is sky blue with a pale blue belly. The male western bluebird has deep blue wings and head, with an orange breast and a pale belly. The females are mostly gray with subdued blue wings and tail. The males arrive early in the spring to claim suitable nest cavities in trees or boxes. A male's bright blue coloring and potential nest site hopefully attracts a female. She will lay 4 to 6 pale blue eggs and incubate them while he waits patiently nearby, occasionally bringing food to her. After the eggs hatch, both parents busily forage for insects to feed their hungry brood.

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